Why is Jesus called the Lamb of God?
Jesus’ titles are often symbolic and help us both gain a greater appreciation of and learn who He really is. One of the titles of Jesus Christ that has a very profound level of symbolism is “the Lamb of God.” I will attempt a basic explanation of what this title means, and why a lamb was chosen to represent the Savior.
Long before the Lamb of God was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, Isaiah likened the Savior of all men and women unto a lamb when he wrote, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7 NKJV). The lamb is an ancient symbol of meekness, humility, and of one willing to submit to the will of the master. While it is true that Jesus is all of these (meek, humble, willing to submit to the Father), the level of symbolism goes much deeper than this. Before further explanation of why Jesus is called the Lamb of God is given, we must dwell for a moment on the role of animal sacrifices in the Law of Moses.
In the Mosaic Law one reads that the sacrifices must be “a male without blemish,” (Leviticus 1:3 NKJV), the firstling or firstborn of one’s flocks (Numbers 18:17), and having no broken bones (Exodus 12:46). Lambs of this nature were highly valued possessions and had to be offered voluntarily. The lambs were sacrificed, then eaten with a ceremonious meal. Anything that wasn’t eaten was then burned.
The same ritual was observed during the Passover, a Jewish feast. The Passover is a celebration and reminder of the miracle performed to the enslaved Israelites in Egypt. God told Moses that He was coming to Egypt because of the wickedness of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God was going to cause the firstborn of each household to die. If the doorpost was painted in lamb’s blood, however, God would know that the obedient Israelites lived in that house and would spare their firstborn child (Exodus 12). This lamb sacrifice at the feast of the Passover is known as the “paschal lamb.”
Jews count days from sundown to sundown, and Jesus officiated at a Passover meal with his apostles as the Passover began. He was crucified and removed from the cross before Passover ended. In the most symbolic way possible, Jesus showed that He was the ultimate protection against Satan, who revels in sin and death. Abraham therefore said prophetically as he prepared to sacrifice his only son, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8 NKJV).
Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. He is a male, sinless and without blemish. None of his bones were broken before His death (John 19:36). He is the First in God’s kingdom. He is meek, humble, and willing to submit to the will of his Father. He is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).
While all sacrifices, including the Passover, helped ancient Israel look forward to the greatest event ever to occur on the earth, the Lord’s Supper helps us look back to that same event. He taught the apostles witnessing that sacred night that the bread represented His body, and the wine His blood. Both were freely given as a sacrifice for all mankind (Matthew 26:26-28).